Effectiveness of Aromatherapy Massage

Effectiveness of Aromatherapy Massage in the Management of Anxiety and Depression in Patients With Cancer: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial

Susie M. Wilkinson, Sharon B. Love, Alex M. Westcombe, Maureen A. Gambles, Caroline C. Burgess, Anna Cargill, Teresa Young, E. Jane Maher, Amanda J. Ramirez

From the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Unit, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Department of Mental Health Sciences, Cancer Research UK London Psychosocial Group, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, London; Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, Middlesex; and Cancer Research UK Medical Statistics Group, Centre for Statistics in Medicine, Oxford, United Kingdom

Address reprint requests to Amanda Ramirez, MD, Cancer Research UK London Psychosocial Group, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London CR-UK London Psychosocial Group, St Thomas’ Hospital, London, United Kingdom SE1 7EU; e-mail: Amanda-jane.ramirez@kcl.ac.uk

PURPOSE: To test the effectiveness of supplementing usual supportive care with aromatherapy massage in the management of anxiety and depression in cancer patients through a pragmatic two-arm randomized controlled trial in four United Kingdom cancer centers and a hospice.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Two hundred eighty-eight cancer patients, referred to complementary therapy services with clinical anxiety and/or depression, were allocated randomly to a course of aromatherapy massage or usual supportive care alone.

RESULTS: Patients who received aromatherapy massage had no significant improvement in clinical anxiety and/or depression compared with those receiving usual care at 10 weeks postrandomization (odds ratio [OR], 1.3; 95% CI, 0.9 to 1.7; P = .1), but did at 6 weeks postrandomization (OR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1 to 1.9; P = .01).

Patients receiving aromatherapy massage also described greater improvement in self-reported anxiety at both 6 and 10 weeks postrandomization (OR, 3.4; 95% CI, 0.2 to 6.7; P = .04 and OR, 3.4; 95% CI, 0.2 to 6.6; P = .04), respectively.

CONCLUSION: Aromatherapy massage does not appear to confer benefit on cancer patients’ anxiety and/or depression in the long-term, but is associated with clinically important benefit up to 2 weeks after the intervention.

Supported by Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Macmillan Cancer Support, and Dimbleby Cancer Care.

Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 25, No 5 (February 10), 2007: pp. 532-539

DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2006.08.9987

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